In honor of the Martin Luther King Day we thought it would be fitting to revisit his famous speech. "I Have a Dream." It is a public speech delivered by American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963, in which he calls for an end to racism in the United States. Delivered to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, the speech was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.
Beginning with a reference to the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed millions of slaves in 1863, King observes that: "one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free". Toward the end of the speech, King departed from his prepared text for a partly improvised peroration on the theme "I have a dream", prompted by Mahalia Jackson's cry: "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" In this part of the speech, which most excited the listeners and has now become its most famous, King described his dreams of freedom and equality arising from a land of slavery and hatred. Jon Meacham writes that, "With a single phrase, Martin Luther King Jr. joined Jefferson and Lincoln in the ranks of men who've shaped modern America". The speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century in a 1999 poll of scholars of public address.
King had been preaching about dreams since 1960, when he gave a speech to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called "The Negro and the American Dream". This speech discusses the gap between the American dream and reality, saying that overt white supremacists have violated the dream, and that "our federal government has also scarred the dream through its apathy and hypocrisy, its betrayal of the cause of justice". King suggests that "It may well be that the Negro is God's instrument to save the soul of America."
On November 27, 1962, Dr. King gave a speech at Booker T. Washington High School in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. That speech was longer than the version which he would eventually deliver from the Lincoln Memorial. And while parts of the text had been moved around, large portions were identical, including the "I have a dream" refrain. While researching the link between references to dreams by Dr. King and Langston Hughes for his book "Origins of the Dream" (published February 3, 2015), Professor Jason Miller found a transcript of the speech. In the fall of 2013, Professor Miller was contacted by the Braswell Public Library in Rocky Mount, informing him that they were in possession of a recording of the speech. In August 2015, after having been restored and digitized, the recording of the 1962 speech was presented to the public by the English department of North Carolina State University.
Dr. King had also delivered a "dream" speech in Detroit, in June 1963, when he marched on Woodward Avenue with Walter Reuther and the Reverend C. L. Franklin, and had rehearsed other parts.
The March on Washington Speech, known as "I Have a Dream Speech", has been shown to have had several versions, written at several different times. It has no single version draft, but is an amalgamation of several drafts, and was originally called "Normalcy, Never Again". Little of this, and another "Normalcy Speech", ended up in the final draft. A draft of "Normalcy, Never Again" is housed in the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection of the Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta University Center and Morehouse College. The focus on "I have a dream" comes through the speech's delivery. Toward the end of its delivery, noted African American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted to King from the crowd, "Tell them about the dream, Martin." King stopped delivering his prepared speech, and started "preaching", punctuating his points with "I have a dream."
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